“The Walking Staff Speaks”

September 14, 2022

Genesis 38: 18, 25

            “25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law,          ‘It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.’ And she said,          ‘Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the        staff.’”

Jacob, grandson of Abraham, had 12 sons.  The fourth son, Judah, by his first wife married a local woman of a different “tribe” and had three sons.  The first died without giving children to his wife Tamar who was then given to the second son who died and so she was promised to the third son.  But Tamar realizing that her plight was dismal took matters into her own hands. 

         This story is important because Jesus is of the tribe of Judah and Tamar is one of the four women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.  Tamar dressed like a prostitute and enticed Judah, taking his staff, his chord, and his seal as surety that Judah would send a goat to pay for her service.  Tamar became pregnant with twins, twin boys.  It was reported to Judah who was going to have her stoned as a harlot.  Tamar produces the seal, the chord and the staff as proof of the paternity of the babies.

         The staff identified Judah as the father.  The staff “spoke” to the duplicity of the situation.  This week I watched BBC report on the ceremonies in Scotland honoring the death of Queen Elizabeth II.  The camera focused on the mace of silver and gold that had been given by the Queen to the Scottish parliament as a symbol of their relationship.  We use walking sticks for hiking and they are a bit personal.  As an elder I use a cane sometimes.  It becomes part of me and necessary for when I am tired and need support.  Every young warrior a had a wooden “rungu”, a mace shaped stick with a large knot on the end that was decorated and represented him and was used to kill snakes or defend from enemies.  The Scottish mace had a name and represented the Queen’s authority and love for Scotland.  Judah’s stick identified him as the “author”, the father of the pregnancy.  That staff put Tamar in the genealogy!

         Perhaps you do not have a staff you use for hiking in the mountains or walking on the beach but I would suspect you have some sort of “walking stick” you lean on when tired.  Staffs are useful but we lean on friends, on chairs, or other items when we need help.  What would your own personal staff look like?  What truths would the staffs in our lives testify to, I wonder.  I pray it does not bring up memories of unjust beatings but brings images of comfort and justice.  We all have times when we need something or someone to lean on.  I would suggest that Christ is our most reliable walking stick and he always sees the good.


“Poplar and Almond Branches”

September 13, 2022

Genesis 30: 37-43

Abraham had Isaac and Isaac had Jacob.  Jacob was a twin, the younger twin.  I have twin boys so I love the very real stories of sibling rivalry between these two brothers.  They were fraternal.  Esau was the red, hairy one, interested in the outdoors.  Jacob, the younger twin, was born grabbing his brother’s heel so was named “the grabber,” and he was an inside person.  True to his name Jacob deceived his brother out of the blessing of the first born and had to flee across the desert to his uncle.  He is deceived by his uncle and ends up with two wives whom he paid the bride price for by working.  Jacob made an agreement with his uncle.  All the solid colored sheep and goats would be the uncle’s and the speckled and spotted and streaked ones would be his.  Jacob took poplar and almond branches and cut strips in them and placed the stripped branches in front of the water holes so that as the animals mated they saw the stripes and bore striped young.  Jacob became rich in herds.  Tension is mounting.

         As Jacob’s herds increase, the uncle becomes jealous and feels wronged.  Jacob makes a plan with his family to flee to his home country and it is at this point that Jacob shares, Genesis 31:10-13, that he had a dream where he finally gives God the credit for the breeding plan. God had seen the injustice Jacob was experiencing.  The poplar and almond branches were not magic but were symbolic for a wise breeding program God gave Jacob.  A geneticist could explain this better but the point is not that good breeding strategy produces good herds.  I think the point is that God sees the injustices we suffer and can use something as small as a branch of a tree to direct the path of our lives. 

         Perhaps it seems insignificant at the time but the small choices we make have ripple affects that impact history.  Perhaps it is like an earthquake in Hawaii starting a tsunami wave that hits the coast of California.  Or perhaps the decision to help a stranger or forgive an offense bears results we are unaware of.  Small actions that may seem unimportant but which are done in obedience to God, may often result in blessings we cannot even imagine now.  The science behind the act may not make sense but the presence of God makes a difference.  May we faithfully listen for that still, small voice that nudges us in a direction that will eventually bless many.  Thank you Lord for speaking into our lives and seeing!


“The Thicket of Provision”

September 12, 2022

Genesis 22:13-15

            13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns.

Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. 

14 So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; 

as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

Last week we ended looking at tall majestic trees like the Cedars of Lebanon that were used to build the Temple in Jerusalem.  We remembered Abraham sitting under a tree with three visitors who confirmed that Sarah would have a son by the same time the following year, a miracle worth laughing at, a dream come true

         Abraham did have a son the next year.  He was named Isaac which means “laughter” because Sarah had laughed as she listened to the men talking about her getting pregnant.  Isaac grew to the delight of his parents but God visited Abraham and told him to take his son to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him.  Child sacrifices were common in other religions then and Abraham started to Mt. Moriah with Isaac.  Mt. Moriah was later known as Calgary where Christ was crucified.  Abraham tied Isaac to an altar he made and was about to sacrifice him when God told him to stop.  In the thicket was a ram caught that became the sacrifice.

         We, of course, cannot prove the historical accuracy of the story but it is an important part of the Biblical narrative.  Not only does it pre-shadow the cross and God’s provision for our sin, our separation from Him. It also speaks to times when we feel like God is testing us to see if we will obey his commands.  Our “test” may not be as dramatic as Abraham’s test with his son but we run in to situations daily that cause us to reflect on what is most important in our lives.  As my oldest children approached learning to drive, I often had witnesses check out my speedometer to see if I was obeying the posted signs and chirping up if I went too fast.  I have also finished ringing up my bill at Walmart and paid only to discover something in the bottom basket I had forgotten to include.  I could pop it in a bag but….

         Perhaps we think God’s solution should appear like a tall tree, a Cedar of Lebanon, where God obviously gets the credit.  But I suspect God’s solution often comes in thickets in our life where we don’t see a solution at first but then God opens our eyes.  There is a ram in the thicket that resolves our dilemma.  This week may our eyes be opened to remember all the times God provides a ram to resolve our dilemmas and may we praise God as our provider!


14th Sunday after Pentecost: Lost and Found

September 11, 2022

First Reading: Exodus 32:7-14

7The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
11But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Psalm: Psalm 51:1-10

1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
  in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
2Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
  and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my offenses,
  and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
  so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment. 
5Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness,
  a sinner from my mother’s womb.
6Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me,
  and would have me know wisdom deep within.
7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
  wash me, and I shall be purer than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
  that the body you have broken may rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
  and blot out all my wickedness.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
  and renew a right spirit within me. 

Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

12I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: Luke 15:1-10

1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

CHILDREN’S SERMON

According to the Internet, “When asked which items they misplace at least once a week, the most common lost items (in order) is revealed as – TV remotes (45%), phones (33%), car & keys (28%), glasses (27%), shoes (24%) and wallets/purses (20%) Americans are spending 2.5 days a year looking for lost items.”  Turn to your neighbor and share which item you are most likely to misplace?  Where do you usually find it?

Let us pray, Lord, May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and Redeemer.

SERMON:   Lost and Found

Last week, Jesus was pretty blunt with us.  “Whoever,” and that includes you and me, wants to be his disciple must prioritize God over family, prioritize God’s values in how we carry our burdens, and we must count the cost as we set our hearts to fight with someone rather than forgive. Those were heavy words.  We don’t like the word “hate” and have trouble internalizing that truth.  In today’s text, that directly follows last week, Luke says that crowds of tax collectors and sinners are gathering around Jesus as he speaks.  I bet they know what it means to be hated!  That message hit home.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law are muttering.  They are struggling, perhaps convicted, by this series of parables and are uncomfortable with the people they are having to associate with to hear Jesus.  Hmmm.  Jesus continues today with two more parables.  Let’s ponder them.

Lost

Last week we talked about building towers or waging wars with others that we think are attacking us.  I proposed that the modern day term might be “defriending.”  We stop connection with others either willfully ignoring or willfully attacking. Today Jesus presents a different picture.  He is looking not through our eyes of being offended and so cutting off relationship but through God’s eyes.  Remember all are invited to the banquet.  Now he shares about a shepherd who has lost a sheep and a woman who has lost a coin.  We see that the connection between lover and beloved has broken down.   This is not a story of a shepherd who cut off communication with a disobedient sheep but a shepherd who is trying to get his sheep to respond but the phone lines seem to be down.  The sheep is lost, out of communication.

         We know the picture.  The sheep who has gone astray may be entangled in a bush so cannot respond when the shepherd calls it to follow.  The sheep may have fallen over a cliff as in that famous picture.  The sheep may be hurt and can’t walk.  It is not necessarily true that the sheep is trying to get lost but life happens! Connection is broken.

         I should like to add to this scenario with my insight from this week.  My husband went into a memory care facility because he needs more care than I am able to give.  I’m not trained as a nurse and he is, or was, 6 foot 6 inches.  He has Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia so standing up and sitting down is very difficult.  Doing it from a normal chair is impossible because he is so tall.  Walking from point A to point B, making his legs move smoothly is almost impossible.  They call it frozen gait.  He has forgotten how to use a cell phone so I cannot call in and he cannot call out nor does he know how to answer.  Communication as we have known it for 46 years has been broken.  The disease has disrupted the nerve communication between brain and body. 

         I wonder if sin is not like that.  I believe we struggle from birth because we are sinners, born disconnected from God.  The spiritual dopamine in our spiritual brain is not working right and so communication with the Good Shepherd is a challenge.  It may mean we have strayed due to our own willful stubbornness and have turned our back on the shepherd.  It may mean we are captives to addictions that blind us.  But it may mean we have a disease that disrupts communication with God.  We call it sin.

         I find comfort in this parable that the shepherd and the woman know whom theirs is.  The shepherd knows one sheep is missing even if the sheep does not know and the woman knows a coin is lost.  The burden of care lies in the heart of God.

Leave

Neither the shepherd nor the woman sigh and say “Ho hum, I’ll have to make due with what I have.”  The host of the banquet is not happy that all who were invited did not come but sent servants out to seek guests.  God invests in our salvation.  He is not passive.  He does not sit off in the sky and wait for us to work our way back to him or meditate our character into an acceptable shape to be admitted.  The Shepherd and the woman actively seek the lost.

         The word “leave” implies process to me and I find that comforting.  Often in testimonials, it feels to me like the person shares the moment when the light bulb turns on and they believe, “accept Jesus as their Savior.”  Some immediately turn from their “sin” and feel welcome in the arms of God.  We can picture the lamb on the shoulders of the shepherd.  But leaving can also be a process.  As we labor in prayer for someone we care about who seems lost, let us never cease praying and may we never doubt that God is seeking our loved one.  No one is beyond God’s power to find.  I have told you that I love the picture of a handshake.  In that mysterious relationship between the Shepherd and the sheep that can be pictured as a handshake, when we don’t remember who we are, when we are blinded by diseases like Alzheimer’s, when we are despairing and suicidal, when we have Down’s syndrome and don’t understand as many do…in all those situations that are so hard to grasp, God’s hand holds on to us in our darkness.

         Now for those of us who think we are the 99 who feel sometimes God has left us to be present with refugees caught in war, girls sold into human trafficking, people crying from jails…all those scenarios that we are sure God cares about more then us, I would suggest leaving does not mean abandoning.  The evil one loves to sit on our shoulder and whisper words of doubt that God is not in our neighborhood.  Evil loves to discourage us from prayer, from sharing our faith yet again, from singing hymns or turning on the radio or going for a walk.  We are not abandoned.  Jesus in the incarnation was visible and in a location but remember how he cured the Centurion’s servant from a distance?  God is not like us but the parable speaks of a Shepherd to comfort us that he knows where we are, when we suffer and he care about us and our loved ones.  He comes to us.

         Perhaps the question that we see in this text that we read during Pentecost is to ask if we are willing to leave the security of the flock to reach out to a “lost sheep.”  We are not the Good Shepherd but we are his servants responsible for caring for his sheep, even the lost ones!  Perhaps there is someone you could reach out to this week.

Lays it on his shoulders

God or the woman are aware when a lost connection has broken communiation and a sheep or a coin is lost.  They leave and begin searching for the lost.  Thirdly the Shepherd lays the sheep on his shoulder.  Having been lost, healing may take time.  Are we willing to lay the recovering on our shoulders and carry them until they are strong again?  As I get older I find I have less flex with the ups and downs of youth, the immature understanding of how faith works.  It all seems so logical to me because I have had years to grow in faith.  Tradition is such a good support when we are discouraged but it can also create walls as we expect others Christians, the young and the hurt, to live their faith in the same way we do.  Laying on the shoulders of Jesus is the process of discipleship, of growth, of learning to walk the walk and talk the talk.  When we are weak, we lean on Jesus!

         How broad are our shoulders today?  Again we must ask ourselves if we are willing to forgive the immaturity of those younger in faith or do we demand their faith look like ours?  It is a fair question.  I sometimes suspect that the popularity of media church, be that streaming or TV evangelists or zooming, which served us so well during the pandemic also helps the differently challenged, the old, and the insecure who feel inadequate to appear in our churches.   Our text challenges us to be aware of the woundedness of those returning from being lost.

Celebrate

The woman does not leave the lost coin in the dark corner or under the couch but picks it up, brushes it off, and calls her neighbors to rejoice with her.  The Shepherd returns the lost sheep to the flock and the angels rejoice.  Jesus concludes,  “10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  And so we come full circle.  Are we standing with the tax collectors and sinners rejoicing that we are welcome because we know our sin and it is ever before us and we know what it is like to be hated and lost or are we grumbling with the Pharisees and scribes, feeling forgotten and a bit miffed that Jesus is not patting us on the back for trying so hard to be faithful? 

         American misplace at least once a week,

  • TV remotes (45%) – our connection with news and entertainment
  • phones (33%) – our connection to family and friends
  • car & keys (28%), – our connection with transport
  • glasses (27%) – our connection to seeing clearly
  • shoes (24%) – our connection with exercise and travel outside
  • and wallets/purses (20%) – our connection with financial independence.

May we never loose our connection with the compassion for the lost, with the willingness to reach out and share, and with our tolerance of the immaturity of others as they heal and return to the flock.  We cannot see the angels rejoicing over the fruits of our efforts but they are.  May we follow the Good Shepherd and be good servants imitating him this week.  May we not be found muttering about the people God puts on our pathway!

The people of God said “Amen!”


“”When Peace Like a River Flows”

September 10, 2022

         This week we looked at the trees in the story of Noah: gopher wood for the Ark itself, an olive leaf for peace, and the vine Noah made wine from this brought a family crisis.  This week Queen Elizabeth II passed and certainly we heard that she was like a giant Cedar of Lebanon leading her realm for 70 years through war and peace.  I chose this rendition of the hymn, “It is Well With My Soul” sung by Joni Erikson Tada.  Joni dove into water as a teenager and broke her neck, becoming a quadriplegic.  She has written beautiful books about feeling overwhelmed by a flood of trouble but learning to overcome by the power of faith, the cross.  She really helped me.  Let’s just listen and enjoy the words.  Blessings.


“Cedars of Lebanon”

September 9, 2022

         My husband is British born of British parents but was adopted to a couple who raised him in Kenya, East Africa.  He has always had a fascination with England.  My grandparents came from England and so British stories intrigue us.  Yesterday I got in the car and happened to turn on the news and heard that the Queen had passed at age 96, the longest reigning monarch in England.  I was on the way to the nursing home to visit my husband.  We sat in his room with my Ipad perched on his walker and listened to BBC all afternoon and watched the pictures pouring across the airwaves to us.  I was deeply impressed at the description of Queen Elizabeth II.  Words like consistency, popular, “the rock upon which England was built” were quoted more than once.

         Our theme for devotions right now is trees.  The words describing the life of the queen and what she meant to her country reminded me of giant trees, perhaps the giant Redwoods of northern California, that I often visited in my youth.  I have often joked, if that tree could talk as in The Two Towers, what tales it could tell of the lives that unfolded near it!    The giant Redwoods are the tallest trees but the giant Sequoias are the largest trees.  They are both cone producing.  That made me think of the Cedars of Lebanon often mentioned in the Bible when speaking of trees to build palaces and the Temple.  I was surprised to read that the Cedars of Lebanon were considered “the King of Trees.” The Psalmist in Psalm 104 praises God’s work in creation.  Psalm 104:14-17 shares,

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
15     and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
    and bread to strengthen the human heart.
16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
    the stork has its home in the fir trees.

The monarchy has provided a consistency, blessed many and been a symbol of England.  It will be interesting to hear the eulogies.  But for us, I ponder what tree we might consider ourselves.  Who has been a tall, strong Cedar in your life providing stability in the face of chaos?  Who has been there through the years encouraging your life to grow?  Thank God for the people who have been like a grove of Redwoods, Sequoias or Cedars supporting your life and consider what kind of tree or bush you would like people to call you.  Blessings as you remember and praise.


“The Bargaining Tree”

September 8, 2022

Genesis 18

Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet,

and rest yourselves under the tree.


Generations are passing after Noah and his sons disembark from the Ark.   We read the story of the Tower of Babel and the beginning of multiple languages.  The genealogies trace Noah’s son Shem’s lineage to Abram who carriers the story forward. God talks with Abram and leads him from his father’s house with Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew.  The story grows around God’s covenant to bless Abram and all nations through him but there is a problem.  Abram has no children.  Sarai is barren.  Both are aging and past the age of child bearing.  For couples who struggle with barrenness, the pain is real.  In Kenya, where we served, it was a death sentence.  A second wife would be found.

         “The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to the tent in the heat of the day.”  Abram’s name has been changed to Abraham as God confirms it is Abram God intends to bless and make the father of nations.  Sarai is renamed Sarah as the chosen wife.  God is going to work the impossible.  The great trees of Mamre are where Abraham will eventually bury Sarah years later, the place of promise that is also near Bethlehem.  That is another story though.

         Three men come to visit Abraham at his tent and Abraham realizes they are special and prepares food.  They tell of their journey in response to Lot’s distress with the evil of Gomorrah.  Judgment will happen.  Noah’s story is still close history and Abraham realizes Lot’s life is in danger.  He starts bargaining with these men, these representatives of God. “If only you find 50 righteous men,..” down to ten righteous men.

         Elders sitting under a tree conducting business is a common picture in Kenya.  Perhaps they do not realize God is present.  I ponder how many times we bargain with God, perhaps not under a tree, but we bargain.  We carve our initials in a heart on trees to express our hopes.  We hang people from trees to express our despair with them.  Trees can be places of business within our souls.

         Perhaps impressive is that God enters the bargaining with Abraham and is willing to take Abraham’s thinking into his plans.  God listens to us when we come to him.  Maybe we do not sit under a tree but often we have that special spot where we meditate and talk to God about our futures and fears of what we think is approaching.  As you meditate today, remember that God is listening and God is active in the events of your life today – working for good to fulfill his promises to you.  You are not alone.


“The Vine and the Wine”

September 7, 2022

Genesis 9:18-28

There is a third tree mentioned in the Noah story.  The Ark was built out of gopher wood that we associate with cypress today.  The dove brought back and olive leaf from the olive tree to tell Noah it would soon be safe to leave the Ark as God led.  Thirdly, though, comes the story involving a vine.  We have some ugly history around this story and really have no clear, definite explanation, but the story is there and so I ponder it.

         God told Noah is was time for him, his family and all the animals and birds to leave the Ark and multiply and fill the earth.  God put a rainbow in the sky as a symbol of his covenant to never destroy the earth by water.  Noah was put over plants and animals and told not to eat meat with blood in it.  Noah exited the Ark and immediately planted a vineyard.  A vine is not exactly a tree, but it is not a flower either.  It produces fruit and Noah made wine and got drunk.  One of the sons discovered Noah and something happened that is not clear but because of it Noah cursed his son and people through history have assumed that some sorts of people are better than others.

         Genesis means “beginnings” and perhaps this is the beginning of racism, not because of language as the story of Babel deals with, and not because of geography but somehow we develop theories to convince ourselves that some people are better than others.  Ugly, horrible actions then are justified as in genocide.  All cultures do it and we are wrong when we participate in prejudice in its subtle forms. 

         The story is very murky.  Noah is drunk.  The one son does something wrong.  Two sons try to rectify the wrong.  And Noah is angry enough to curse his son.  Sin is like that.  A blessing of a vine that gives fruit becomes the source of family conflict and division and the story is twisted, convoluted and impacts generations that follow.

         Perhaps your family does not have the skeletons and rifts of the Hatfields and McCoys or of Romeo and Juliet but our world is marked by divisions rooted in sin.  Let us spend time this morning confessing and praying for our world and for the many areas of conflict politically, socially and morally.  Lord, have mercy!


“Olive Leaf”

September 6, 2022

Genesis 8:6-12

“he sent out the dove from the ark;

11 and the dove came back to him in the evening,

and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf;

so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.”

The dove and the olive leaf are symbols of peace and cooperation.  According to the Internet, “The olive tree, or more specifically an olive branch, is a symbol of peace and friendship dating back to ancient Greek mythology.”  I suspect Noah predates the Greek Olympics image.

         The dove returning to the Ark symbolized to Noah that the anger of God had subsided and it was safe to leave the Ark.  The rainbow symbolized to God his commitment to never send another flood.  God was affirming that the relationship with people was going to continue.  So how do we make peace?  For some it is “kiss and make up or out,” and for others it is flowers and chocolates.  Sometimes we bow our head and whisper “sorry” or write a note of apology.  Pretending an offense did not happen is probably the least healthy reconciliation tactic.  I find what gets buried often pops up in other areas, at inconvenient times and in inappropriate ways.

         Let’s take a moment today to ask God to shine the light of his truth on our hearts and reveal any simmering issues we needs to lay to rest.  Perhaps we need to offer an olive leaf to someone and find peace.  Blessings as you are honest with yourself!


“Gopher wood”

September 5, 2022

Genesis 6-8

“So make yourself an ark of cypress wood (gopher wood);

make rooms in it and coat it with

 pitch inside and out.”

The next tree mentioned in the Bible is the gopher wood, thought to be today called Cedar or Cypress. Noah was told to use it to build the Ark.  Gopher wood is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible.  I have always read the Noah story as a historical event ie all cultures have a flood story, or sung about it with youth on bus rides, or taught it in Sunday School and certainly laughed when Bill Cosby does his solo and asks God, “What’s an Ark?”  The tree in the story, the gopher tree, is not really the focus because usually the point is God’s distress at sin and his ability to save people seeking him. 

         Today, though, I am pondering the story in the light of feeling overwhelmed by the flood of emotions sweeping through my life as I go through the transition of putting my husband in Memory Care.  My life is tossed around as shopping changes, cooking changes, routines that defined my life have changed, and I grieve.  I wonder how Noah felt and his children.  Did the work of caring for the animals keep them so busy they didn’t focus on the loss?  God chose a tree, the gopher tree or perhaps cypress, to save Noah and his family.  God chose the cross to save us.  Some days I cling on to my faith in the midst of the flood of events and emotions.

         I remind myself that God spoke into the chaos of the evil of that day and he is speaking into the chaos, the evil, the murder, the selfishness of our day.  God is working and like that gopher tree that was used to build the Ark and is often overlooked in the story, I may feel unimportant but you and I are part of a story that may feel like a flood today.  God is leading, directing, speaking, and desiring a life we do not see yet that will be good.  Thank you, Lord, for hope in discouraging days.  Blessings on your journey!